With star U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps down 2-0 to intrasquad rival Ryan Lochte during head-to-head swims in the 2012 Olympic Trials, the 16-time Olympic Games medal winner is poised to erase that goose egg and put up a victory against Lochte to settle the final score at one race apiece.
There is little doubt who the better career athlete is—with 14 golds alone, Phelps is far more decorated than Lochte, who has won just three golds and six medals overall in two Games.
The intrigue in Omaha continues to grow as Phelps glides to the verge of overtaking the upstart Lochte. Their most recent duel—the 200-meter freestyle semi-final—produced a one-two finish, in Lochte's favor, in which the duo were separated by a minuscule two one-hundedths of a second.
Meanwhile, third-place qualifier Conor Dwyer clocked in 1.11 seconds behind the dashing duo, who remain Team USA's feature attraction in the pool.
Wednesday night, Lochte and Phelps—the only qualifiers to clock in at under one-minute, 47-seconds in the 200 semis—will be there again, side by side in lanes four and five, ready to continue their duel in the pool.
And Phelps will look to take Round 2 of the men's swimming final races. Lochte defeated Phelps in the 400 individual medley Monday night, though with another one-two finish, the two are London-bound.
For his part, Phelps was stoic: "I was very pleased with [the 400]. I said if I went 4:07, I'd be happy." Phelps swam a 4:07.89 Monday night.
His coach, on the other hand, was not: "His turns were horrendous. That's two seconds there. His breaststroke leg has got to be better. There are any number of things he can work on."
The IM and freestyle are certainly not the same race, but they share key attributes—the entry, turns and of course, the freestyle leg itself.
In his semi-final loss to Lochte, Phelps demonstrated his climb back—after all, an 83-hundedths difference shrunk down to a two-hundredths deficit. More importantly, Phelps fixed his poor turns and was simply smoother in the water than he was during the 400 IM.
Based on that trend and performance, Phelps' negative will become a positive during his next water-side meeting with friendly foe Lochte.